Desi VlahosAs 2021 comes to a close, the new year brings hope of new beginnings and optimism. But living through a pandemic has led many towards a feeling of languishing throughout the last two years. Desi Vlahos, Mentor and Lawyer at Leo Cussen, and winner of the 2021 Wellness Advocate of the Year at the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards looks back on 2020 and 2021, and how we should look to new opportunities in 2022.

We’re almost two years into the pandemic, and you’d think that with the lockdown coming to an end we should be bouncing back in leaps and bounds. Instead, we feel like we are on an emotional rollercoaster, not knowing whether to be cautiously optimistic. For many of us, working and studying in isolation, adapting to new online formats of social and professional interaction, there has a real and palpable loss of community, connection, and closeness. Sociologist Corey Keyes coined the term “languishing” as the antithesis to flourishing. An apathy, a sense of restlessness or feeling unsettled or an overall lack of interest in life and the things that typically bring us joy. There is a reason for this.

At the Kets de Vries Institute, researchers highlighted a model that helps to make sense of this collective sense of emotional burnout. The Zulin and Myers Model describes the emotional response leading up to, during and emerging from a disaster – in this case, the global pandemic as we start to rebuild. The model looks at the following 6 phases:


The news of COVID-19 generated fear and anxiety and it took time before we felt the impact in Australia and case numbers rose internationally.

Reality Impact

As case numbers rose rapidly, this created a range of intense emotional reactions including panic, shock, confusion followed by self-preservation and family protection.


There was a marked sense of altruism, collaboration, and cooperation – “We’re all in this together” was the catchphrase of this phase. We saw high levels of activity with low levels of productivity.


A strong sense of optimism and community that life would revert to normality quickly and a vaccine was on its way.


As we emerged from multiple lockdowns and case numbers began to spike again, it led to mixed feelings of discouragement, despondency, and physical exhaustion.

We are now in the final phase – reconstruction. As we emerge from lockdown and reopening, this phase is characterised by a sense of grounded optimism and future focus. However, before we make our primary focus high levels of productivity, we first need to rebuild our energy reserves. The emotional stressors of the pandemic have forced our fight/flight into overdrive and even though we are past the ‘danger’, our bodies may be revved up, continually producing stress hormones that deplete our body’s energy stores. This is why ensuring we make self-care and re-building our energy stores a primary focus as we come out of lockdown and well into 2022.


Desi Vlahos, Lawyer Mentor & 2021 Wellness Advocate of the Year, Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards

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